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Who Were The Original 8 Teams In The NFL?

I bet you’re curious… Who were the original 8 teams in the NFL? 

Though there aren’t really any official “Original 8” teams, if you were to ask who were the original 8 teams in the NFL, we could consider the New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, and Pittsburgh Steelers as the originals. 

Key Takeaways

  • Unlike popular belief, there are no 8 original NFL teams. The NFL was founded in 1920 with just 14 original football teams.
  • The so-called 8 original teams in the NFL are New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The History Behind the 8 Original Teams in the NFL

The NFL used to be known as the American Professional Football Association or APFA.

Jim Thorpe, first president of the APFA, during his playing days with the Canton Bulldogs.

In 1920, it began with just 14 teams, two of which—the Decatur Staleys and the Chicago Cardinals—are still around, as the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals today.

The 1920 Akron Pros World Champs pose for a photo. (Pro Football Hall of Fame via AP Images)
  • In 1926, the number of teams went down over the first decade of the league’s existence. It went down as low as 22 in that same year and dropped to 12 the next year.
  • In 1932, the first playoffs took place and approximately 8 teams were existing—namely the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Cardinals, the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants, the Boston Braves (presently known as the Washington Redskins), the Portsmouth Spartans, the Staten Island Stapletons, and the Brooklyn Dodgers (possibly today’s Indianapolis Colts). 
  • In 1943, the NFL had 8 teams once again, which are the Dodgers, the Redskins, the Bears, the Cardinals, the Giants, the Packers, the Detroit Lions, and the bizarre Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Steagles (merging of the Eagles and Steelers in one season due to the wartime player shortage).
  • Starting 1944 to 1969, the Rams, Browns, 49ers, Vikings, Saints, Falcons, Cowboys, and Colts were added. Then in 1969, the league merged with the AFL, which added ten new teams. 

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The Original 8 Teams In The NFL

Since the Giants, Bears, Cardinals, Packers, Lions, Redskins, Eagles, and Steelers are our originals in the NFL. Here’s a brief history of all the teams we considered:

1. New York Giants

In 1925, the Giants were founded by Tim Mara, the original owner, with an investment of $500. They are still called “New York Football Giants” legally up to this day to distinguish themselves from the baseball team using the same name.[1] They became one of the first teams in the so-called five-year-old National Football League.

2. Chicago Bears

In 1920, the businessman A.E. Staley founded a franchise that became the Bears. It was first known as the Decatur (Illinois) Staleys. In 1921, George Halas—the player-coach of the new team—relocated it to Chicago after Staley handed the young franchise over to him.

3. Arizona Cardinals

Along with Chicago Bears, they are one of two charter members of the National Football League still existing today. The Cardinals are the oldest extant professional football club in the United States as well. In 1960, the franchise moved from Chicago to St. Louis, and in 1988, it moved to Phoenix, Arizona. 

4. Green Bay Packers 

On August 11, 1919, the Green Bay Packers were founded by former high-school football rivals Earl “Curly” Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun. They are the only ones left of the “small-town teams” which were common in the NFL throughout the league’s early days of the 1920s and 1930s.

5. Detroit Lions 

A professional American football franchise called Detroit Lions that is based in Detroit, Michigan dates back to 1928 when they played in Portsmouth, Ohio as the Portsmouth Spartans. They will begin their 92nd season in 2020, carrying on to be one of the National Football League’s oldest franchises.

6. Washington Redskins 

The Washington Redskins, known to be one of the NFL’s oldest and most-storied franchises, were founded in 1932 with the name Boston Braves.[2] In 1933, the team’s name was changed to Redskins. In 1937, the team relocated to Washington, D.C. where it instantly won the first of its five World Championships.

7. Philadelphia Eagles

In 1933, the history of the Philadelphia Eagles began. The Eagles have performed in the Super Bowl three times, losing in their first two appearances but successfully winning the third, in 2018. They won three NFL Championships, the forerunner to the Super Bowl, in four appearances. 

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

On July 8, 1933, Arthur J. Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pittsburgh team was known as the Pirates until 1940, making it the seventh-oldest franchise in the NFL as of today. Pittsburgh’s success in the 1970s was the opposite side of the Steelers’ experiences in their early years.

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Final Words

After several decades of the NFL’s failed attempts, it became the first professional football league to successfully establish a nationwide presence. And as of today, the Decatur Staleys (presently known as the Chicago Bears) and the Chicago Cardinals (presently known as the Arizona Cardinals) are the only two teams that are founding members currently in the NFL. 

What can you say about this? Who are your “personal” original 8 teams in the NFL? Comment them down, and let us know! 

If you liked reading this article, you will surely enjoy our write-ups on football offensive positions or these articles on triple-option offense, shotgun formation, and pistol formation offense.


 1. “Giants Home | New York Giants –” Accessed 25 Jun. 2020.
 2. “Boston Braves Team History | Sports Team History.” Accessed 25 Jun. 2020.

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